TAMPA, Fla. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Bucs' new starter: Everybody loves a revenge angle, which is why Ryan Fitzpatrick versus the Jets is so compelling. It conjures memories of the Jets' 2000 trip to Tampa, where Keyshawn Johnson -- traded to the Buccaneers in the offseason -- faced his old team for the first time. The hype for that game dwarfed the Fitzpatrick buzz, but the storyline was essentially the same. So, yes, Keyshawn knows what Fitzpatrick is feeling.
"There's a definite revenge factor even though he won't say it publicly," Johnson told ESPN. "I'm sure he wants to play well and show them they made a mistake by letting him go and signing [Josh] McCown instead of giving the money to him. He's trying to maintain a certain persona, but I bet he's saying something different when he's with family and friends."
Keyshawn's revenge game was a flop. He was held to one catch for 1 yard, his team lost and his former teammate/rival Wayne Chrebet caught the winning touchdown pass on a halfback option from Curtis Martin. Johnson fueled the emotion with his famous "flashlight" quote a few days before the game. He told a newspaper that comparing him and Chrebet would be like equating a star in the sky to a flashlight. Years later, Johnson claimed the quote was misinterpreted.
"That [quote] was a beauty," he said with a laugh, "but I don't think people got the gist of it. It wasn't a shot at Wayne, it was about the Jets' receiver situation without me. People were saying the Jets were doing fine without me, and I was saying that batteries burn out and stars continue to shine."
As for the game, Keyshawn said the only thing he remembers is Martin dropping the glove on his throwing hand as he lined up for the option pass -- a tell the Bucs' defense apparently didn't see. Johnson said he got the last laugh, as the Bucs made the playoffs. The Jets didn't. Two years later, the Bucs won the Super Bowl and the Jets ... well, you know.
2. TKO in Tampa: The Fitzpatrick story has overshadowed McCown's return to Tampa. Yep, the Bucs were Team No. 6 of his eight-team NFL journey. McCown played only one season (2014), which he recalled as "a really tough year."
That's an understatement. He went 1-10 as the starter (the team was 2-14), and he was sacked a career-high 36 times -- once every 10 dropbacks.
Before the current season, I spoke to a longtime personnel executive who said McCown wasn't the same player after that beating. The executive said, "He's done. He's Jerry Quarry. He was done in Tampa, and he was on fumes in Cleveland."
To his credit, McCown has proven that executive wrong -- and a lot of other people, too. His 70.4 completion percentage isn't only the best in Jets history, but it ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time list for a single season. Since Week 5, he's the only quarterback completing over 70 percent with twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.
If he keeps it up, he will play his way into the team's plans for 2018, if he hasn't already. The 38-year-old McCown will be a free agent.
3. Battle of the journeymen: McCown versus Fitzpatrick isn't your run-of-the-mill quarterback battle. Let's have a little fun, shall we?
Combined age: 72.
Number of different teams (regular season): 15, including the Jets and Bucs (for whom they've both played).
Combined winning percentage (as starters): .368.
Combined playoff games: Zero.
Combined career earnings: $93.2 million, per Spotrac. That's $54.7 million for Fitzpatrick, $38.5 million for McCown.
4. History against backups: In case you're wondering, the Jets are 3-2 under Todd Bowles when facing backup quarterbacks in starting roles. They've had good games (Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys, 2015) and bad games (Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins, 2016). What concerns the Jets about Fitzpatrick are his smarts and competitiveness, not so much his arm. For instance: If they're disciplined in their rush lanes, he'll find a crack and escape. It should be a fun matchup.
5. Tike McBowles: Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan exchanged verbal bouquets this week. Maccagnan said they have a "very good working relationship," and Bowles said "we get along great." Bowles also made a comment that caught my attention:
"We're married, but we're not married."
I interpreted that as Bowles saying they're attached at the hip. Technically, they're on the same level, both reporting to ownership, but will ownership see them as one if the season goes south?
Right now, I'd say there's a very good chance both men will be back in 2018, but a lot can happen over seven games, especially against one of the toughest schedules. Maybe this will be moot at some point, but it's worth filing away just in case.
6. Buster and the flags: Cornerback Buster Skrine has been called for 10 penalties, which ties him for the league lead among defensive players. Skrine doesn't sound too concerned.
"My whole career, I've had penalties, so it doesn't bother me," he said. "I mean, I do want to fix it because it hurts the team, but we play man-to-man almost every down."
Since entering the league in 2011, Skrine has accumulated 64 penalties in 102 games, the second-highest total over that span. The only player with more penalties is cornerback Brandon Browner, who last played in 2015 -- 72 penalties in 61 games, per ESPN Stats & Information.
7. A Lott to like: Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott tries to watch the Jets whenever he can because he's a friend/mentor to Leonard Williams. A few days ago, I asked Lott about the Jets' defense, which shined last week.
"They have the makings of a young group of guys who could possibly take over games," Lott said. "You have glimpses of it. What's you're looking for is consistency on every play."
Lott loved their intensity, saying, "I saw guys playing like something was on the line. When I watch sports, I look for: Are people playing like their pride is on the line, like their name is on the line?"
The Jets have trailed by more than one possession for only 41:48 in nine games. That should tell you something about their competitiveness.
8. Lucky and unlucky: Anticipating Jeremy Kerley's four-game suspension, the Jets -- in search of a punt returner -- brought in Lucky Whitehead for a free-agent visit, a source said. Whitehead might have made the team coming out of the preseason, but he fractured a foot and was released. The Jets opted not to re-sign Whitehead (for now), preferring their in-house options. It'll be Elijah McGuire or JoJo Natson, whom they promoted from the practice squad on Saturday. They've been playing musical punt returners for ... what, a decade?